New York

John De Andrea

O.K. Harris Gallery

John De Andrea’s naked figures, posing casually on the floor of the O.K. Harris Gallery, are clearly meant to be shocking. And they are, for a moment, until one realizes that they are not real. With casts made from models, De Andrea has transcribed and frozen the particularly human—gesture, goosebump, pore, and pimple—into painted plexiglass. The uneasiness caused by these works lies in the manufacturing of what appears human from technical and mechanical processes. This is exactly the reverse of what had been disturbing about Gilbert and George at the Sonnabend, where the human had been transformed into the mechanical.

Although there is also a “living sculpture” named Carl in Jeffrey posed in a room adjacent to De Andrea’s sculpture, he functions as a pun on the distinction between art and life, demonstrating the virtuosity of De Andrea’s work. The game becomes waiting for Jeffrey to smile or change his position, to break his act; the viewer assures himself that Jeffrey is human and leaves the gallery feeling fooled, indulgent, and entertained.

The effect of Gilbert and George was more difficult to dismiss. Their insistence on carrying the uptightness of their performance into life not only erased the distance between art and life, it extended a slight uneasiness about the quality and form of life represented by them. One wondered if they ate, relieved themselves, and made love with the same schematized movements they showed in singing “Underneath the Arches” Just how different were they from the Abraham Lincoln in Disneyland or the Billy Graham at the New York World’s Fair?

In both situations, the result is theater. At bottom, the final question is only “how?” How exactly does De Andrea make his works seem so realistic? How were Gilbert and George able to combat fatigue, boredom, and hallucination? Although there is nothing wrong with being amused, entertainment denies the viewer the gratification of rebuilding works of art for himself. Both acts seem to indicate desperate attempts to revivify the defunct avant-garde.

Lizzie Borden